Old Wives' Tales
Radio & TV
Toxin du jour
Claim: An Oregon girl's message-in-a-bottle was found by a boy in Hawaii.
Streight got a letter last week from a 16-year-old Honolulu boy named Keoni.Message-in-a-bottle
Keoni found the bottle on a Hawaiian beach following a luau.
He wrote a note to Streight, enclosed it in an envelope and mailed it to her. He enclosed her original note as well.
"I opened the envelope, read through the letter and thought, 'No way,'" Streight said. "Then my note fell out, and I thought, 'Wow!'"
Keoni did not send a picture, just a one-page typed note. It began, "Aloha, Emily. My name is Keoni. I'm a 16-year-old boy in Kaimuki, a neighborhood in Honolulu, Hawaii."
He went on to tell her his ancestry was a mix of Hawaiian, Japanese, Portuguese and Chinese, that he likes to surf, kayak and skateboard, and that he plays wide receiver on the football team.
Keoni said he and a friend had finished a luau on the beach. They were cleaning up afterward when they found the water bottle and spotted the note inside.
He said he had trouble reading the address, which had faded badly, but his girlfriend helped him figure it out. He said she wasn't thrilled about him writing to a girl, but he told her not to worry, because she lived 2,000 miles away.
Keoni said he had spent his entire life in Hawaii, but was thinking about going to college on the mainland.
He said his brother has friends at Linfield College and his sister has a boyfriend at the University of Oregon. But he said he'd rather go to college in California so he could keep up with his surfing.
He wrapped up, "I hope you're happy to get your letter back. It seems like it has been traveling for a long time. Aloha, Keoni."
However, after the story broke and reporters were unsuccessful in attempting to contact the mysterious Keoni (the return address he had provided was genuine, but no one by his name lived there), Linda Coble, a reporter with
A man identifying himself only as Tom M. had called the station and admitted finding the bottle several weeks earlier. At the time, he had been clearing brush along Panther Creek in preparation for his wedding to a Carlton woman.Emily's parents were not so sanguine about the whole matter: "They thought he was a total jerk," she said. "They said a guy that old should be smarter than that."
He said he took the bottle and the note back home to Hawaii with him, sat down at his computer and concocted the story about being a 16-year-old Hawaiian boy who found the bottle on the beach. Obviously, he didn't expect his charming, heartwarming, but false tale to go so far.
Tom told Coble, "If I would have said I'm a married, 34-year-old, chubby white guy, it would have sounded creepy. I know people from the mainland, and what they think of Hawaii is a lot of Polynesian people running around on the beach, so I tried to make it sound like that."
Tom and his wife, a nurse, live in a high-rise apartment building. He put his correct return address on the envelope, and that set off a search by Honolulu media outlets.
No one by that name lived in any of the many units in the building, upping the ante. At that point, Tom came forward to tell the real story.
"I was laughing, but I was crying because I was really embarrassed," he told Coble. "Like, I couldn't believe this is something that got on the news.
"I feel just really silly right now. I learned that maybe I should think things through a little bit more."
He said he was thinking about sending [Emily] a postcard and telling her, "Sorry for being so stupid. Hope someday you can come enjoy Hawaii, enjoy the beaches, maybe go surfing on your own, maybe go to a luau, find your own Keoni."
Instead, Tom called Streight at home and offered his apology for what he had done. She readily accepted.
Last updated: 2 November 2006
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